Tough As Steele/Take Down ALS
Organized by: Ashlee Steele
Andy, and his wife Ashlee, met at the age of 12 and have been together ever since. I guess you could say it was "love at first sight." In high school, Ashlee's family moved to Minnesota and Andy's to Arizona. The young couple learned that the distance in miles was a separation they needed to rectify. With that in mind, they attended college together at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Upon graduation, they were married and started their life together in Madison. Andy started work as a deputy for the Dane County Sheriff's Office and Ashlee started working for a large financial institution in town. In 2001, they had their first child, Jack. They welcomed their second child, Rachael, in 2003. After Jack was born, Ashlee left her job to stay home with their children. When Rachael was 4, Ashlee began teaching at Rachael's preschool. Ashlee has been happily teaching 3 year olds ever since. Today, Andy and Ashlee have been together for 26 years and have been happily married for 16.
Early in 2014, at the age of 39, Andy began to notice twitching in his arm muscles. The twitching started and never stopped. He was also experiencing speech difficulties. Andy noticed it was harder to articulate words and felt like his speech was slurred at times. Concerned, he made an appointment with his doctor. On June 4, 2014, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. ALS, (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a terminal, progressive, neuro-muscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, move, speak, swallow and breathe. ALS patients in the later stages of the disease may become completely paralyzed. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis.
To say they were stunned by the diagnosis is an understatement. Andy sought a second opinion which confirmed the original diagnosis. With the early symptoms of muscle weakness, and the progressive, degenerative nature of the disease, Andy reluctantly retired from his 16 year career with the Sheriff's office.
ALS is not only a terrible and incurable disease, it can also be financially devastating, especially to someone who is diagnosed at such a young age. Andy is unable to work and the loss of his income is crushing to the household finances. ALS patients require specialized equipment to aid in mobility, communication and daily living. The out of pocket medical expenses associated with ALS are high and easily exceed $100,000, even with medical insurance. ALS patients like Andy require a specialized wheel chair ($50-$80,000), lifts ($6,000), a handicap accessible vehicle ($50,000-$75,000), speech assistive technology ($20,000), home modifications to accommodate the wheelchair (upwards of $20,000) and a variety of other expensive necessities to assist in daily living. The family needs help gathering funds to help cover these exorbitant out of pocket medical expenses.
Despite it all, their spirits remain high. Andy is continuing to live life to its fullest.
Andy and Ashlee are humbled by the amount of support they have received from their family and friends. They are grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing people